Pearl Of Wisdom

by Rich on February 19, 2018

It has been well documented, here and basically everywhere, that I’m not really a basketball fan. I’ve tried. Many times. But frankly, the game today bears little resemblance to the game I used to play. To be fair, I was in 3rd grade , so the mere fact that players can dribble between their legs and make lay-ups virtually ensures that what occurred all those many, many years ago in that small, smelly gym has nothing in common with modern basketball. Sure, I enjoy filling out a March Madness bracket like everyone else (for entertainment purposes only), but I have never really followed the game.

Until now.

Here’s the thing… my Alma Mater, Auburn University, has this really great coach, Bruce Pearl. And this one man has been able to do something that no man, woman or beast has been able to do for the entirety of my living years: make me care about basketball. Winning will do that. But it’s not just the winning.

Since his arrival on campus, Pearl has made every effort to bond with not just the players, students and faculty of Auburn, but with every sector of the greater community. Now, that’s not a first when it comes to college coaches. But what sets Pearl apart from many of his predecessors and contemporaries is that he is succeeding. Not just on the court, but in the community. Why? Because it’s coming from his heart.

It probably comes across as trite and naive to say something like that. “Our coach REALLY cares!” But I truly believes he does. I see it in the way he interacts with people and organizations away from campus. I see it in how his staff and support personnel respect him. I see it in how his players play for him. And more importantly, how they play for each other.

The basketball of my youth has been romanticized through time. But it’s because my experience with the game ended when my coaches were teaching me fundamentals. Not quite “Hoosiers”, but close. There were no egos in 3rd grade. The  team was all important. Winning the game as a unit was more important than individual play. And that’s what I see when I watch this team play. They are selfless. They are generous. And they are having fun. Sure, it’s always fun when you’re winning, but you can just tell by watching… this team enjoys the game and has a good time playing it.

And isn’t that what we, as fans, want to see? Why was Brett Favre so much fun to watch? Because he played the game like a kid in his back yard. Why was Chipper Jones so popular? Because of that boyish grin. In a time when so much seems wrong and crooked and sleazy, it’s easy to be cynical. But sometimes, a special coach, player or team comes along and reminds you of what you like about sports. I would watch a Bruce Pearl coached team compete in shuffleboard. Because he would always be teaching and because his players would be playing for each other and having fun.

The other day I walked into my living room, picked up the remote, and, with full knowledge and intent, turned on a college basketball game that did not involve Auburn. Bruce Pearl has done the impossible. He’s made me care about basketball.

Now if he could just explain what a foul is, I would be set. Because from what little I have seen, no one seems to know.

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